The Panthers still haven’t decided exactly where all their linebackers will line up.
But it was good to see another one return to the field this week.
Incumbent middle linebacker Jon Beason returned to team drills Tuesday (June 12), his first full work after Achilles surgery, and promptly picked off a Cam Newton pass in 11-on-11-drills.
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Beason had been limited to individual work through OTAs, but was back in his familiar spot when minicamp opened. And it didn’t take long for him to look like himself again.
“A natural play,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Somebody else might not make that play. But I think guys with his kind of his experience and his kind of ability make that. And that’s what he saw. He made a nice move on the ball and a nice play.”
Those instincts have served Beason well inside, and Rivera has said that as they experiment with combinations, that Beason will begin in the middle. That leaves first-round pick Luke Keuchly on the weak side, though some within the organization think that will ultimately change.
Beason started his Panthers career on the weak side when they were hoping Dan Morgan could stay healthy, but that lasted four games into Beason’s rookie season.
Either way, the Panthers hope that having Beason back lends a little more stability to a defense that was rudderless without him last year.
He’s still working his way back to 100 percent, but Rivera said he could tell the veteran linebacker was on the right track, even if his conditioning wasn’t all the way back.
“It was good to see him moving around,” Rivera said. “Really, the biggest thing was just his conditioning. He was winded. He’s done all the installation stuff. But he was out there. And you could see he had a little adrenaline rush going. He was all fired up to get that last extra set of reps. He (asked) out just because he was gassed.”
–Linebacker Thomas Davis has been held out of team drills during OTAs and minicamp, but said he’d be ready by training camp. Davis is trying to become the first player to come back from three torn ACLs.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to go,” Davis said. “I’m pretty much there right now. We’re just taking precautions.”
–The Panthers shuffled the bottom of the roster again, signing a pair of undrafted rookie wide receivers. They signed Michael Avila (San Jose State) and Lamont Bryant (Morgan State).
To make room for them on the roster, they waived wide receivers Chris Manno and Wes Kemp.
Avila then came to minicamp and had to sit because of a hamstring problem.
–The Panthers closed minicamp and their spring work with a practice in Bank of America Stadium. Coach Ron Rivera wanted to give his team a chance to practice on their game field. An estimated crowd of 5,500 watched the final session.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“The energy level was a little bit up because of perception, that it’s a minicamp as opposed to an OTA practice. We had a lot of energy out there, and I’m pretty excited about some of the things that I saw. Some of our guys did some really nice things for us.” — Panthers coach Ron Rivera, on the semantic difference between OTA practices and minicamp.